God’s Name

Swami Satyananda Saraswati

Satyam – truth, shivam – auspiciousness, and sundaram – beauty – these three are your true form, your true nature. Purity is within you. You don’t have to adopt good qualities from outside. You are already that. Therefore, the scriptures have said that satyam, shivam and sundaram represent your real nature, but they are hidden. To manifest them, you have to break the outer shell.

You should not relate spiritual life to daily life, nor should you have any complex about your nature, such as “Oh, I am not a good person.” Yes, you are not good, and I too am not good. You are bad eighty percent of the time and I am bad ten percent of the time, but bad I am. As long as you are in this human body, you can’t be free from sins, from lapses, from the frailties of human life, because you are subject to the dharma of the body. You are subject to the gunas: sattwa, rajas and tamas. Without the integration and permutation of sattwa, rajas and tamas, there is no creation. The total composition of creation is the three gunas.

Goodness cannot be imposed or cultivated. Goodness is your inner being which is completely hidden, and you can only break through the shell with the help of God’s name. There is only one way to do this, no other method works. My model is 1923 and I have been trying all my life. I have tried every method and left it. I have tried to straighten the dog’s tail so many times, but it always curled back again. The tail can only be straightened by cutting it off. I realized that I was trying to save the tail and also to make it straight. This is not possible. Either have a curly tail or cut it off. So I cut off my tail.

Life begins with incompleteness. If you want to take your life towards completeness and perfection, then you should begin with the mantra of wholeness. The only mantra of wholeness and perfection is God’s name. It is natural for life to start with imperfection. When you wish to move towards perfection, you don’t have to take up a difficult path at the outset. You can try any method, but an important item in your life should be discipline. Just before you go to sleep at night and when you wake up in the morning, sit down and chant God’s name for twenty minutes. Forty minutes is hardly a fraction of one day, but it is enough to make household life enjoyable. Then it doesn't matter what you eat or drink. If you want to eat meat or drink wine, do so. Whatever you want to do, you can. Whatever you are, whether a prostitute, a thief, a saint, a female or a male, high caste or low caste, politician or executive, repeat God’s name.

Do it loudly. What is there to hide? There should be no shame in singing the Lord’s name. Why should people be ashamed of worshipping God? If people see me worshipping, they will also worship when they return home. I get up, wash myself and start my japa. Oh God, when I go to sleep your name should be the last thing I remember, and when I wake up your name should be the first thing I hear. So I inaugurate and close the day with God’s name. Anything which is begun well ends well.

However, when you open your eyes in the morning, the first thing you see is this idiotic world. What is there to look at? You look at the world the whole day because you have to. But you should forget it for at least forty minutes each day and listen to the Lord’s name. Start your day with the Lord’s name. Don’t be fearful of God. God won’t be unhappy if you don’t repeat His name. Even if you denounce Him, He won’t punish you.

God is our friend who always works for our well-being. We are the ones who forget Him. God exists and He remains always with us like a friend. Swami Sivananda used to say, “God is the breath of the breath, prana of the pranas and the life of lives. God is my reality. This is the only truth in life.”

The experience of God is believed to have two aspects: name and form. Name is more popular than form. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, one does not have to concentrate the mind to remember God’s name. The other reason is that there is a sound vibration, a nada, within a name. It creates a vibration at many levels. If you chant Om or Rama, the sound vibrates at the gross level, then produces a more subtle vibration on the inner level where it creates an explosion.

The place where God’s name is remembered and sung becomes pure and holy. The place where there is fighting and abuse becomes unholy and impure. God’s name is like soap. Just as soap cleans clothes, so God’s name washes away the dirt of many births. God’s name is like a detergent which cleans the karmas. It cleans the dross of the soul you have accumulated during the course of this life and many past lives. This Akhara has been sanctified by the singing of God’s name.

Saying God’s name is the way to develop bhakti and serving Him is another. Whether you call it soap or any other name doesn’t matter. In Hindi we say sabun, the Spanish say jabon, the Italians call it sapone, and some call it soap, but the substance remains the same. The relationship between the devotee and God should start with the name. After repeating the name, the feeling develops, and that is bhakti. Name or mantra is a method, but actually it is your own feeling which is important.

There are the methods through which the bhavana, the feeling, of bhakti can be developed. You have to know that you have forgotten God. You may talk about Him, read about Him and want Him as well, but you have not worked for him as much as you have worked for money, profession, success, children. How hard you work, day and night. Sometimes you even have a heart attack, but nobody has ever died of a heart attack because he loved God! People have died of heart attacks while working for their family, but nobody ever died of a heart attack while remembering God. Such is our plight.

There is something called the last breath. What should our last thought be at the time of the last breath? Everybody has a last thought. You may not be aware of your first thought because you were not totally conscious at that time, but there is certainly a last thought and a last breath. There is certainly a last action also, such as drinking water, doing japa, going to the toilet, talking to somebody. What should my last act, my last thought and my last breath be? Why, it should be God’s name because that thought determines our onward journey.

Now my only wish is that when my prana leaves the body, I may have the name of Govinda on my lips. While I live, let me remember Thy name and when I am dying, let the last breath of my life be Thy name.

Just as sugar becomes one with milk, let the mind melt in God. There is no use controlling the mind because there is no mind as such. Just sing and sing the name of God with proper tune and pitch, rhythm and beat. You will enjoy it. Good food, sweets, tea, coffee, even brandy do not generate as much heat as singing God’s name. There is no other alternative and no better means to reach God than singing His name.

Rikhia 1995